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Leveling Up Requires You, Now

Leveling Up Leveling Up

I started my company, Pitch Publicity, while in my mid-20s, so my previous work experience never afforded me the typical corporate structures and stress that most professionals face, like the dreaded end-of-the-year performance review that can send even the most productive and efficient employee into a state of anxiety and fear.

In the first five years of running my business, other professionals convinced me that to succeed, I would have to manage my small business like it was a large corporation. Not knowing exactly what that meant, I studied up on it and started trying to run things a little more “corporate” or at least what I interpreted that to mean. This included adding a company-wide meeting at the beginning and end of every workday and subjecting each of my employees to quarterly and annual reviews.

What my employees did not realize is that even though it was my idea, I dreaded these reviews, probably more than they did. Not only is it stressful, but it’s almost as if the annual review sets us up to be complacent about the here and now. I actually caught myself several times withholding feedback that I could have given an employee immediately, so I could either save it to prove something and create a case for their lack of performance or hold the celebration of achievements for this “very important” meeting that I was forcing us to have every three months. After two years of operating with what I thought was my “corporate way” of evaluating the work of my team, I ditched the review meetings altogether. Not only were they causing unnecessary stress, but they were also holding us back from unlocking our greatest potential as a team.

As the business landscape continues to evolve, one cornerstone of success remains constant: communication. Our modern workplace of hybrid, in-person and remote interactions demands a proactive approach, where bosses, managers and employees engage in real-time feedback to drive productivity, efficiency and growth. Waiting for annual or even quarterly reviews to exchange feedback is best left in the past. To foster a future culture of confidence and empowerment requires us all to level up with two essential communication steps that can be used to drive production and job satisfaction in any work environment.

Step 1: Be Accessible

With each team member I train at Pitch Publicity, I inform them from their first day that their success is dependent on how frequently they come directly to me with questions and feedback. I tell them that the quicker they do this, the shorter their learning curve, and the more successful they will be. This may sound like a terrifying idea to managers who cringe at multiple interruptions throughout the day, but I have found that my ability to be accessible to my team eliminates a lot of guesswork, mindreading and mistakes that often result from not receiving the information straight from the source. For example, I once had a new employee spend two hours trying to figure out how to do an assigned task by using YouTube and Google. It’s something that I could have explained in less than 10 minutes, and all she had to do was simply ask. As an employee, if you are concerned about looking inexperienced by asking too many questions, then consider asking, “How would you like this done?” instead of, “How do you do this?” This slight change in terminology turns the focus to the manager’s preferences versus the employee’s potential lack of skills, showing both effort and dedication to getting it done right the first time, and to the manager’s liking.

Becoming more accessible to your team, especially during those critical first days sets the tone for how they will perform on the job moving forward. And having that “open door” policy with employees creates a level of confidence that assures them that they are doing the job exactly how you expect it to be done. Over time, they will do this work as if they were you, and that’s where your accessibility really begins to pay off.

Just as bosses should be accessible to their team, so should employees be accessible to their bosses. I’m a huge proponent of boundaries and believe everyone should have them in every area of their life, so I’m not suggesting always making yourself available, but don’t take it to the extreme and go completely silent after hours either. Accessibility builds confidence with your boss, too. Being there in a crisis, or during crunch time on a deadline, elevates your status and value. However, bosses shouldn’t take advantage of this, and employees need to set boundaries.

If you run your company like I do, it’s common practice to work weird hours of the day and weekends, too. Ideas, questions, directives all pop into my “boss brain” at random times. If one of those random times is not during my team’s normal working hours, I’m careful to not bombard them with too many messages that are just going to pile up and potentially get buried by the time they return to work.

One tool I use to prevent this is to schedule my messages. You can schedule emails or internal platform messages at a specific time and day that you know the person holds their office hours. Employees should also use the function of automatic email replies, if they are not reachable for long periods of time, or set “office hours” on internal platforms, like Slack, that inform the person sending the message that you have notifications turned off and that you will see the message upon your return. I’m also a fan of using the “do not disturb” feature on smartphones. This way if a text message is sent and “do not disturb” is switched on, the recipient will receive a message saying the person has “do not disturb” activated; a great nudge to let the sender know to hold off on communications for now.

Step 2: Front-load With Feedback

Giving and receiving feedback requires frequent observation and active listening. When it comes to feedback, you should give it frequently, directly and upfront without holding back. It’s like ripping off a Band-Aid. It may be uncomfortable for a minute if it’s a correction or may even feel like a surprise party in the middle of your day if it’s a celebration. But front-loading your feedback will instantly get your team back on track or elevated to the next level.

When receiving feedback, remain open-minded, calm and refrain from becoming too defensive. To remain focused and in a state of active listening, take notes. Writing out the feedback that is being given to you will help you evaluate it logically, especially if the person giving you the feedback is upset or harsh. Then, respond by asking questions, which will help you gain more clarity as to what changes you need to make and calm the person giving the feedback. That person will now feel heard by you. Finally, repeat back the feedback in summary along with your commitment to make improvements. Avoid jumping to an apologetic response of, “I’m sorry, it will never happen again,” because if it does happen again then you are breaking even more trust. Instead, actively listen, take notes, ask questions, repeat the feedback along with your commitment to correct the problem. You could say, “I hear what you are saying, I’m going to work on this. Can you please let me know if you see me creating this problem again?”

When giving feedback, find the right time, environment and tone. If you are angry, in a rush or traveling, it’s probably the worst time to correct someone. Instead, set a designated time to speak, select the right environment and write down your thoughts first so you can deliver the feedback calmly and professionally. If that is not possible, and the feedback needs to be more immediate, at least wait five minutes so you can calmly gather your thoughts on how you are going to deliver it.

Whatever you do, don’t hold back on giving feedback, whether it’s praise or correction. The sooner you provide feedback, the quicker production will increase, and goals will be achieved. This can be done in both in-person and remote settings. For correcting employees in the office, you invite them to a private meeting, whereas working remotely, you call them on the phone. Use that personal touch whenever possible. Praise lavishly when they are doing anything well to encourage them to keep striving for success. I use emojis and GIFs in our Slack channel at Pitch Publicity to send out instant praise to my team. When it’s a huge accomplishment I call them on the phone so they can hear my voice. In an office, you can highlight someone during a company meeting or surprise them with a “party” at their desk, which could include balloons, confetti or anything to make the accomplishment visible to everyone else in the office.

Getting to the Next Level Requires You

Executives looking to take their company and team to the next level must first embrace the proactive mindset of seeking and giving instant feedback. Bosses initiating feedback discussions with employees demonstrates a commitment to growth and improvement for the company and its people.

If your company is stuck on using annual reviews to determine your success or weakness, act now. Rather than waiting for an annual review, schedule regular one-on-one meetings with your boss to discuss progress, challenges and areas for development. This practice not only showcases your dedication, but also provides a dedicated channel for constructive input.

Communication is the bedrock of success for any company. Building confidence within your team involves frequent and direct feedback, corrections and celebrating achievements, big and small. Regularly acknowledge their contributions, offer praise and provide constructive feedback to fuel their growth. Avoid the pitfalls of micromanagement by entrusting your team with responsibilities and encouraging autonomy. A culture of open communication and mutual trust will empower employees to take ownership of their work and excel.

The implementation of real-time feedback strategies stands as a testament to an organization’s dedication to growth and excellence. As executives embrace these communication strategies, they are positioned to elevate trust and take their teams to new levels making the natural products industry a growing, thriving and attractive place to do business and build a career. NIE

Amy Summers, founder and president of Pitch Publicity, has decades of experience working with major clients in the natural products industry to increase national publicity exposure across all mass media outlets, while also developing key strategic communication strategies. In 2020, she launched INICIVOX to help individuals improve a wide-range of soft skills centered on the complexity of communications. Her influential career has garnered her recognition as a PR News Top Women Awards Honoree in the Business Entrepreneurs category, acknowledging her unwavering dedication to the public relations profession. Headquartered in New York City, Summers is committed to supporting and nurturing the growth of the natural products industry that has served her well throughout her career. Learn more at: www.pitchpublicitynyc.com and www.INICIVOX.com.

Albion Minerals®